“In the digital age, everything we say, do and write is preserved forever, including antics most would rather forget”
Fascinating piece in today’s Independent on the problem of the net never forgetting. So much of what we do is trackable online now, and as more RF devices are linked in to gadgets, vehicles – our bodies even – we will be churning out huge amounts of data via our searches, purchases and movements which harvesters like Google and Microsoft will manipulate.
One story from the article stood out:
In 2006, on his way to pick up a friend from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, [Feldmar – a well-respected Canadian psychotherapist] tried to cross the US/Canadian border, as he had done over 100 times before. This time, however, a border guard queried an internet search engine for “Feldmar”. Out popped an article Feldmar had written for an interdisciplinary journal in 2001, in which he mentioned that he had taken LSD in the 1960s. Feldmar was held for four hours, fingerprinted and, after signing a statement that he had taken drugs almost four decades ago, was barred from further entry into the United States.
The article goes on to recommend that files that we create have a ‘sell by date’ just as food does – after this date it will be deleted. I’d go further – what I really want is a system that allows me to designate anything as ‘volatile.’ In this way certain emails – the pointless quick information ones – would just delete themselves after a certain period. Quick memos I’ve written on my phone for that day will not be synched and stored in perpetuity on my Mac.
With the stupid amounts of bytes we are generating daily – and the server farms we are having to build to store them – volatility is not just sensible data management, but an environmental necessity too.
We evolved brains that forget for good reason. We’d do well not to forget that.